Design the Patio of Your Dreams

What’s Your Personal Patio Style?

Themed inspirations for outdoor living spaces that are all you.

Contemporary Patio and BackyardWatching the kids learn how to swim in the pool. Cooking up some spiced ribs on the grill. Sipping a gin and tonic while watching the sunset.

So many memories can be made on a backyard patio. It’s a place where you can feel safe and cozy while at the same time getting out and enjoying the elements. A custom outdoor patio that is designed around your family and home creates a space for you to cultivate an outdoor life. Features like outdoor kitchens, whirlpools, wall enclosures and pergolas can provide hours of entertainment and relaxation for your family and guests.

Whether you want to design a completely new patio or renovate your current one, you can find inspiration from many sources that will speak to your personal style. Patio design firms often draw ideas from popular themes and then add custom features to suit their clients’ tastes. If you choose to go with a set style or theme, the style of your home should go into that decision. For example, ranch-style houses are often paired with a Southwestern theme, while Victorian homes are well matched with a Shabby Chic ensemble. Read on to discover some popular patio themes and what you might find to be your own personal patio style.

 

Southwestern Motifs Capture the Wild Heart of the Desert

The mysteries of the desert and classic Native American arts come to life in Southwestern themed patios. This style is for those who enjoy adventure and don’t mind a little sand in their boots. The Southwest is filled with sun and bright colors, so don’t be shy with your proverbial brushstrokes. Reds, oranges, yellows, and blues reflect the fiery colors of the desert in contrast to the vast desert sky.

Sonoma Southwestern Style Patio

image source: @Wonderlane on Flickr.com

 

Structures inspired by clay-crafted adobes can create enclosed spaces for intimate gatherings and date nights. America’s inspiration for many of the patterns and objects in New Mexican styles came from, of course, Mexico. The colorful woven Mexican blankets add a layer of casual luxury when laid over an outdoor couch or used as a tablecloth. Chimineas are wood burning stoves, a centuries-old tradition originally used as bread ovens in Mexico. Sold for decoration in a variety of sizes, they make a perfectly subtle accent in a corner or on a table.

Southwest Influenced Patio Design

image source: @txcustompatios on Flickr.com

 

Fire pits are a must on a Southwestern patio – where else would a cowboy warm up after a long night’s ride? Round clay or sandstone bordering make for pits that provide a respite for weary travelers. For seating and dining, go with classic wood or wicker furniture in medium warm tones. Metals also evoke a sense of fire and heat, so iron and bronze can also work very well. Iconic images of the Southwest, like Kokopelli symbols and turquoise Zuni embellishments, will give the space an extra touch of authentic.

 

Under the Tuscan Sun, Old World Style Still Reigns

Tuscany has long been a destination for romantic vacations and solo trips for finding oneself. So it’s no wonder that the Old World charms are captured in so many New World patio designs. Rolling fields of juicy vineyard grapes, elegant olive trees and fragrant herbs create a rich, green landscape that induces total relaxation. If you’re a romantic at heart, then an Old World style patio may win your affections.

Old World Style Patio

To capture la dolce vita of the Italian countryside, surround everything in your dream patio with greenery. Vertical gardens swooning with vines, terra cotta urn planters filled with jasmine and wisteria, and shady trees of apple, fig, and olive will bring the calming tones and scents of Tuscany to your own backyard. Geraniums in brilliant pink and white are a common sight on Tuscan homesteads and add a joyful brightness to the color palette.

Food is king in Italy, and dining al fresco is a standing tradition in the Italian summer. Your patio furniture should be a centerpiece of the scene you create, allowing family and friends to enjoy long, leisurely meals together. Choose rustic metallic finishes, wrought iron, or anything with an oxidized look. The surrounding décor will focus on cast aluminum or bronze statues of the gods and other figures, Medici vases, Venetian pot water fixtures, and anything terra cotta. For flooring, fall for sandstone or flagstone, which reflect the earthy colors of Tuscan farms.

 

Get Off Beat with Shabby Chic: Classic Furnishings, Oddities and Antiques

Shabby chic makes old look new – or is it the other way around? Whichever way you look at it, this style blends retro with romantic and leaves a lot of room for originality and even quirkiness. The shabby chic look is for lovers of all things antique and collectible. You may have diverse interests and are often exploring new things, but always like to come back to your usual creature comforts.

Shabby Chic Patio Design

Image source: http://www.lovethispic.com/tag/shabby

 

Gentle pinks, blues, and greens against soft whites are prominent in the shabby chic style. Patterns will be classic American – floral, plaid, and stripes – all very familiar. While the fabrics might be predictable, this is just the backdrop for a fascinating array of knick-knacks and antique store finds to be sprinkled throughout the patio. These can be whatever you want – from salvaged ship parts and stained glass windows to collectible 19th century figurines and original works of art in ornate frames. Let your free spirit roam and don’t hesitate to be spontaneous.

White and antique wicker seating creates a casual and cozy setting for catching up with loved ones over a cup of tea. Natural fibers are best, in keeping with a country theme, eschewing all that is too urban. Distressed oak hard wood floors can be covered with soft area rugs in seating spaces to create an outdoor living room, and left exposed by the pool or hot tub. This motif offers a slower pace of life, one that can be savored and welcomes reflection on the past.

 

Contemporary Designs Create Cutting-edge Leisure

Style seems to start West and move East, and it’s no different when designing a patio. The futuristic styles that design houses call “contemporary” are often first embraced in the uber chic homes of Sonoma Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Contemporary designs are most often embraced by forward-thinking types who enjoy keeping up with the next best thing. While contemporary looks can work in rural, urban, or suburban settings, they create an ambiance that decidedly favors the city.

Contemporary Patio Design

image source: http://www.paolalenti.it

 

Contemporary living demands all of the modern conveniences, so no need to be conservative on the bells and whistles. A full-size kitchen and bar is a perfect example of such luxury. These can be designed large or small to fit any size budget. The foundation of the patio itself will have clean-cut lines to evoke symmetry, and cool flooring made of materials like slate or limestone. Patterns in flooring or walls are industrial and angular, and may have repeated tiling, stamping, and carvings.

In the furnishings and accents, neutral tones contrast with the brightest of brights for elegance as eye-catching as Californian sunflower fields. More earthly colors can be strategically placed for a natural feel even among stainless steel and stone surroundings. Select rattan furniture for casual dining, or dark woods for added sophistication. Walls and planters fitted with bench seating can also provide additional places to lounge around the dining and pool/spa areas.

contemporary patio

image source: pixabay.com

 

Contemporary looks can be dark or bright in tone, but almost always call for more light to soften things up. Metallic chandeliers can be hung under a pergola or even from a tree branch, blending lavish modernity with a classic lighting scheme. Use mirrors set at the back of cavernous and covered spaces to reflect more light into them. A trellis wall offers filtered views, lets in natural light in the daytime and provides a space for adding greenery like climbing plants and vines. Elaborate water features are another opportunity for added lighting – they can be programmed to alternate in multiple colors, and are especially alluring at night.

 

It’s Your Space: Let Your Personality Shine Through

Your patio is your patio. These styles can guide the design, but ultimately the look and feel should make you feel good each moment you spend there with your friends and family, or even alone, knowing that your patio is your special haven away from the duties of the home and the trials of work life. Your patio is your oasis where some of the best memories of your life will take place. It’s a place where you can be yourself, and just be.

Camping Gear You Can Use in Your Backyard

From the Mountain to Your Backyard- The Best Camp Gear You Can Use Anywhere

Summer is here and quickly fading. One of best parts of the weeks of warmth still remaining is being able to spend as much time outside as possible. One of the easiest ways to make that happen is to find things that make time spent, from eating to lounging, as interesting and nature-flattering as possible. Today’s camping gear is much more advanced and flexible than simply grabbing a pair of sticks and rubbing them together. In fact, today’s camping gear can go from both wild trail to your backyard patio. And awesome camping gear that is affordable, versatile, and dynamic is cropping up in all kinds of new ways.

 

Coolest Cooler

Touted as one of the shining glories of Kickstarter (still going and over 8 million dollars raised!), the Coolest Cooler is truly one nice ice box. With a blender on top to mix up drinks, this cooler has taken every bit of space to make a cooler smarter. Wireless speakers sit on the outside, with a pair of wheels designed for going over any terrain. Inside, a divider separates ice and foods to avoid any sad, soggy sandwiches for dinner. It’s easy to see the Coolest Cooler being a must-have item at your campsite, beach, or your own poolside. While not coming out until 2015, Coolest might end up making all other dull ice-boxes obsolete.

Best Camping Gear for the Backyard

image source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ryangrepper/coolest-cooler-21st-century-cooler-thats-actually

 

Oru Kayak

Being on foot in the great outdoors is great, but the waters of the world might be worth a try. Should you love the open water, the Oru Kayak might be for you. Unlike many fiberglass kayaks, the Oru Kayak, is not at all cumbersome. Ideal for small spaces, this lightweight kayak folds up into a suitcase (literally) and can be taken and stored nearly anywhere. You can try the Oru Kayak on the beach beside the seals, or maybe just paddle around the pool with a lemonade if you want to stay home.

Folding Kayak

image source: http://www.orukayak.com/

 

Tentsile

Sleeping under the stars in one of the staples of summer nights. And while a dream of many a child and kid at heart, tree houses aren’t really a thing you can make spontaneously. Instead of pitching up a tent for the night that might take an hour, the Tentsile takes a tree house and starry sky to a new level. Part hammock and part tent, the Tentsile allows you to sleep off the ground and keep yourself out of bad weather, or away from curious critters. With versatility in set up, being able to go between trees and posts, the Tentsile gives users a fun way to stay outside in comfort all summer long.

Tentsile - hammock and tent in one

image source: http://www.tentsile.com/

 

Biolite Kettle Charge

Being able to have a warm cup of chocolate at the end of the night, or even perhaps tea in the brisk morning, is a luxury when out.  For a tech savvy device that can make your morning cup of delight more delightful the Kettle Charge by Biolite might be the answer for you. And, you will never be in fear of having a phone charge. This lightweight kettle with a handle also features a usb connection that provides 10kw of power and can charge up devices as the kettle receives heat. Now you can Instagram an artistic shot of that steaming cup of joe from your tent site, or maybe just your fort in the backyard without the power cord.

Kettle Charge

image source: http://biolitestove.com/products/kettlecharge/

 

GoSun Stove

Making a hot meal when away from an oven often conjures thoughts of either a campfire or instant meal: both a lot of work and sometimes not practical. Instead, you can use the best oven that is free – the sun.  is used with  – the sun. Standing on two slender legs and able to be packed up by handles, the GoSun stove can go from either your backyard patio or off onto a remote beach or campsite with no power but what’s in the sky. Able to heat up to temperatures of over 500 degrees, GoSun can make anything from your morning coffee to a tray of muffins. Or maybe you can get creative and even try out a backyard pizza.

Solar Stove that works anywhere

image source: http://www.gosunstove.com/shop/gosun-stove/

Discover the World’s Best Natural Hot Springs

These Exotic Natural Hot Springs will Make You Want to Go to There Today

Today, of course, you can drive to the spa for a day of relaxation, or simply jump in the outdoor hot tub in your backyard. But in times gone by natural hot springs were the indulgence of choice for those looking to feel cleansed, refreshed, and healed. Bathing in natural spring water was a part of everyday life for the ancient Romans. The act of bathing was a sacred, yet public affair: romantic relationships were cultivated in these waters, as well as business deals and political alliances. The Romans knew that the natural springs where they built their bathhouses – called thermae – had healing properties. The central role that bathing played in Roman society was grounded firmly by this knowledge. All things done while bathing would be enhanced by the powers of the springs. They were blessed by the gods.

Roman Bath - Natural Hot Springs

Such was the luxury of living in ancient Rome (never mind the lack of modern day conveniences). These bathhouses were available to the public for a small fee affordable to most, and some were quite large. The most spacious of all known bathhouses, the Baths of Diocletian (pictured above), could hold up to 3,000 people. As the Roman Empire expanded, so did their concept of bathing in natural hot springs. Enhanced for the modern pleasure-seeker, many springs across the world are now the center of lavish hot spring spas and vacation resorts. For the most part, these retreats are simply visited for deep relaxation, though some go for the express purpose of treating personal ailments. These hot springs tend to be located in rural or wild areas that are protected and less developed, surrounded by nature and a tranquil environment.

Mother Nature has cultivated two qualities in her natural springs to be used for our benefit: geothermal heat and mineral infusion. Water in a hot spring is heated by geothermal energy from the mantle beneath the Earth’s crust. “Hot” is considered by most experts to be 98 degrees or higher (anything lower than that is called a “warm” spring, though the distinction is nominal). Hot springs are therapeutic for ailments like arthritis and sore muscles. These springs also naturally contain nourishing minerals that have been infused in the water as it traveled through underground aquifers. Many different types of salts, like lithium and saline salts, and other compounds like sulfur are often found dissolved in the spring water.

Traveling abroad to visit one of the world’s well-known hot springs makes for an exotic experience that transcends even sitting in a rejuvenating hot tub or sauna. Cultural and natural wonders, along with real peace, can be found in these places. Most of them offer a mix of placid simplicity (breathtaking scenery and communing with nature) and high-end luxury (spa treatments and massages). At these natural springs sites, visitors see new sights while indulging in a tradition that has endured thousands of years.

 

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon draws in tourists and Icelandic natives alike. With its haunting blue waters and mystic steam rising up from the surface, Blue Lagoon truly takes its bathers to another world. The water is a mix of sea and fresh water – and is naturally filled with beneficial minerals. The heat comes from a geothermal power plant, owned by a heating company that created the lagoon to test heating methods in the 1970s.Blue Lagoon hot spring spa and resort

Expect water temperatures of 98 to 102 F in these geothermal springs – on the lower end as far as hot springs go, although compared to the cool Icelandic air, it’s quite hot. The 1.5 million gallons of water in the springs contains silica minerals as well as sulfur. These minerals are what draw in many people suffering from psoriasis to seek the healing properties of Blue Lagoon, as it purportedly reduces their symptoms. The thing to do at Blue Lagoon is to scoop up the silica mud and rub it on your face – instant exfoliation.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland - hot spring spa

Aside from the lagoon itself, the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa also includes saunas, steam baths, spa treatments, massaging waterfalls, and other luxuries both natural and man-made. The breathtaking, expansive volcanic landscape makes it an icy-hot paradise. And you can take some of it with you: they sell the silica mud packaged and ready to apply.

If you go

Blue Lagoon website: www.bluelagoon.com

Getting There: Drive 50 minutes southwest from Reykjavik or 20 minutes southeast from the International Airport. Transfers are also available to Reykjavik and/or the International Airport.

Cost: $39 entrance fee

Travel Tip: Peak times of day are from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To avoid large crowds, aim for late afternoon or evening.

 

Arenal Hot Springs, Costa Rica

One of Costa Rica’s six active volcanoes, the Arenal Volcano (in Spanish, Volcán Arenal) is an active volcano that heats and mineralizes several streams that flow at its base. These streams feed into a series of hot springs that have been cultivated by the local tourism industry. Don’t worry, you won’t catch fire – the volcano is “dormant,” meaning it is not currently erupting, and it geologists have observed that its volcanic activity has been declining in recent years. The volcano is the heart of the Arenal Volcano National Park.

Arenal Hot Springs spa and resort - Costa Rica

Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort was the first facility to open the springs to the public in a luxury setting, and remains the most popular. The hot springs that serve its clientele come primarily from rainwater that has dripped to the Earth’s core and been geothermally heated. Costa Rica hot springs resortThe hot spring temperature ranges from 77 to 122 F in some spots so be sure to be aware of where you can enter. Most of the water is right in the 100 to 104 F range, perfect for soothing achy muscles and joints. Many species of plants and microorganisms also populate the water, and they are said to have a therapeutic effect on the skin.

Arenal Volcano has a powerful presence that adds a sense of majesty to the experience. At night, watch for lava flowing down and lighting up the dark landscape. You need not spend an entire vacation stay at Tabacón – day passes are available for access to the dozen or so mineral pools on the resort grounds. Relax under the three thermal waterfalls, take a stroll through the gardens or hitch a ride on the water slide.

If you go

Website: www.tabacon.com

Getting There: The shortest way to Tabacón from the capital city of San José is also the most scenic. The drive, which winds through miles of rainforest, takes about 3 hours.

Cost: $60 for a day pass

Travel Tip: If buying a day pass, make your reservation far in advance. The number of guests permitted in the springs is limited.

 

Ma’In Hot Springs, Jordan

You may already know about the great River Jordan from the Biblical accounts. A series of hot springs in that same country also have Bible-era roots. It was said that King Herod and others sought the natural hot springs of Jordan whenever he was ailing. The springs are a respite surrounded by mountains, valleys, and waterfalls, which are located near the Dead Sea.

Maln Hot Springs in Jordan

A little on the hotter side of natural hot springs, the water at Ma’In Hot Springs can reach up to 145 degrees F. Minerals collected by migrating rainwaters in the valley include potassium, magnesium, calcium, and hydrogen sulfide, all of which nourish the skin. Flowing hot springs waterfalls provide a soothing, natural massage. The public bathing complex is a hotspot for locals, with Roman baths located at the base of the waterfall. The Evason Ma’In Hot Springs is an elite resort located at the springs, providing more privacy and a variety of spa treatments at Six Senses Spa.

The springs and surrounding areas are as rich in history as they are in minerals. A nearby attraction is a field of dolmen, prehistoric chamber tombs commonly found in Israel, Syria, and Jordan. The “lost city” of Petra, with its rosy, stone-cut architecture, is a popular side trip for visitors to the springs.

If you go

Evason Ma’In Hot Springs website: www.sixsenses.com/evason-resorts/ma-in/destination

Getting There: Driving takes 20 minutes from Madaba, or about 1 hour from the capital city of Amman.

Cost: Public bathing – $14 entry fee. Evason Ma’In Hot Springs – from $207 per night.

Travel Tip: Evason offers seasonal deals on accommodations and spa treatments during their less busy times.

 

Hot Springs at Yambajan, Tibet

Nestled at the bottom of the Nyainqentanglha Mountains, the hot springs of Yambajan offer high temperatures and high altitudes. The eight springs in this region were all aptly named in Chinese – like Fish-Cooking River – so hot that fish that swim into it get boiled – and Bread-Steaming Hot Spring, where apparently, some people bake bread over the hot steam on the water’s surface.

Hot Springs at Yambajan China

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a striking picture of beauty: glaciers, snow-covered hills, and lush forest are a constant backdrop. Yambajan Tibet Hot SpringsThis, along with the hot temperatures and rich mineral and sulfur content of the water, combine to make a luxurious hot springs therapy experience. Some of the springs are literally boiling and must be collected and cooled before they can be used for bathing.

While you won’t bake or boil, you will get very hot in these springs. The high altitude of the Yambajan hot springs site makes it easy to get dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and take breaks between short soaks in the springs. There are many pools at the site built expressly for bathing – stick to those, which are at appropriate temperatures. Soak safely, and you can find true peace in Tibet’s little corner of heaven.

If you go

Tibet Travel Information: tibettravel.info

Getting There: Public bus transit is available from Lhasa.

Cost: $5 entry fee

Travel Tip: Traveling to Tibet can be complicated– there are some hoops you’ll have to jump through. Plan your trip carefully, and be sure to obtain a Tibet travel permit in adequate time.

 

Mornington Peninsula, Australia

Located southeast of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a popular tourist attraction that is home to scenic views and ecological sites. Known locally as “the peninsula,” many of the visitors are natives of Melbourne, so a visit here is an opportunity to get an authentic Australian experience. Sunny beaches (best in Australia’s summer), expansive golf courses, and a wildlife conservation park make for a winning combination of exotic and familiar.

Penisula Hot Springs Spa & Resort

And of course, there are the peninsula’s hot springs. The natural thermal mineral waters can be enjoyed in a public or private setting. The social and family-friendly bathhouses feature access to the water pools – which range from 98 to nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit – as well as cold plunge pools for when guests need a break from the heat. Steam baths, hydrotherapy, and an underground sauna, as well as spa treatments, will keep you there for hours.

Enjoying Penisula Hot SpringsThe outdoor private pools and indoor baths are designed for one to five people, for 30-60 minutes at a time. Private mineral baths are also available – try a skin soak in mud or lavender vanilla milk. All of the spring waters contain restorative minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium that regenerate the mind and body.

There is no lodging at the springs themselves, however accommodations are located not too far from the complex in the town of Rye. Packages are available with several hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and caravan parks, all within short driving distance of the springs.

If you go

Peninsula Hot Springs website: www.peninsulahotsprings.com

Getting There: The Morningside Peninsula is just a 90-minute drive from Melbourne.

Cost: $A20-$A40 for public baths, depending on time of day. $A63–$A70 for private bath use.

Travel Tip: The cost of admission for bathing early (7:30–9:30 a.m.) or late (7–10 p.m.) is less than at peak times.

3 Simple Ways to Boost Your Creativity Today

Boost Creativity

Courtesy of Flickr @ andrew prickett https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewprickett/5982282183/

Ever feel like you’re in something of a creative rut?  It’s not unusual. It can be called writer’s block, a slump, or just a bad day, week, or year. We all have our down times when the lightbulbs just don’t ignite. But how do you break out of your rut and shine?

A little restored creativity and a few brilliant ideas can restore your zest for life and help you to feel better and be more productive.  Recent health and wellness studies have shed light on several healthy habits that can potentially increase your creativity and the reasons why they work.  These creativity-boosting practices ranged from new methods of highly focused meditation to the age old benefits of a simple walk around the block.  Read on for the three simple tips that could help you to boost your creativity today.

Meditation

Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang, Director of Texas Tech Neuroimaging Institute, is best known for his study of integrative body-mind training (IBMT), a form of traditional Chinese meditation shown to improve emotional regulation and focus.  In his most recent study, Tang observed how IBMT also correlated with increased creativity. Creativity, as defined by Tang “is a phenomenon whereby something novel and appropriate is created, such as an idea, an artistic or literary work, a painting or musical composition, a solution, and an invention.”   Subjects of the study received instruction from a qualified IBMT coach and then implemented the meditation routine for 30 minutes every day for 7 days.  Results showed that IBMT subjects had increased creativity test scores and also reported higher positive mood states.   Tang explained the correlation between meditation and creativity, stating “meditation is associated with the ability to self-regulate emotions, which has been found to be a key component in cognition, including creativity.”   Report of mood was also a factor in Tang’s research. “…it is proposed that positive affect fosters creativity fluency and originality because of enhanced cognitive flexibility, which may make more diverse connections among ideas, as well as perceive more differences among the items or content, with negative affect having the opposite effect ”  Tang said.  For more information on Dr. Tang’s research and IBMT practice, visit http://www.yi-yuan.net/english/tyy.asp.

While IBMT is not yet widely accessible, you can still practice other forms of meditation.

Escape in your hot tub

Be Optimistic

A review article in “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience” by Tamar Icekson and his colleagues at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, indicates how optimism amplifies creativity.  Like Tang’s definition, Icekson explains creativity as being able to conceive solutions that are not only useful, but sometimes necessary to avert threats like bankruptcy or an attack.  The motive to create such solutions is what Icekson believes makes the difference in whether creativity is fostered or not.  “Striving for positive outcomes or success (approach motivation) enhances creativity, whereas striving to avoid negative outcomes or failure (avoidance motivation) undermines it,” Icekson said.  For those who are avoidance motivated, a situation where demands exceed resources would be evaluated as a threat.  While those who are optimistic (approach motivated), would view the same scenario as a challenge.  Icekson suggests that an optimistic mind set provides a positive end state to look forward to, stimulates cognitive flexibility and therefore allows for divergent, creative thinking.  Striving only to avoid negative outcomes promises no positive end state and “doesn’t provide much fuel for excitement or intrinsic motivation,” he said.  While approach motivation tends to promote creativity, Icekson warns that neglecting relevant obstacles for the sake of optimism can be detrimental.  “When people are approach motivated, they tend to focus on potential gains and overlook obstacles and dangers.  They pay less attention to threatening cues and feel more confident about achieving their goals,” he said.  Read Icekson’s complete article here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3937876/

Take a Walk

The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a simple study showing how walking correlated with increased creativity test scores.  Adult subjects took both Gulford’s alternate use (GAU) of creative thinking test and the compound remote associates test (CRA) of convergent thinking.  Walking increased 81% of the subjects’ creativity on the GAU and 23% on the CRA.  As the study simply states “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”

Summer Smoothie Recipes: Tahitian Frozen Lemonade

Tahitian Frozen Lemonade Recipe

Tahiti Smoothie Recipe – Frozen Lemonade

Inspired by the vanilla and coconut flavors known to Tahiti, this twist on traditional lemonade makes it easy to escape a hectic work week for a place more tropical.

Ingredients

The juice of 2 lemons
The juice of 1 lime
12oz of coconut water (not milk)
5 mint leaves
1 vanilla bean
Sweetener (stevia, agave, or sugar work well)

Preparation

Juice both lemons and the lime and combine with the coconut water.

Add the mint leaves to the juices then mix in a blender on low until leaves have been incorporated.

Add sweetener to taste then blend to mix.

Transfer lemonade to pitcher. Using a sharp knife, carefully split the vanilla bean length wise in order to reveal the paste inside. Using the knife, carefully scrape the paste from the bean and add it to the lemonade. Stir the vanilla into the mixture.

Serve over ice.

3 Ideas to Simplify Your Life – Minimalism at Home

Ideas to Simplify Your Life – Free Yourself from Stuff at Home

The Minimalist Home: You’ll be Leaner, Greener, and Sometimes Meaner

keep it simpleWhen you hear the word minimalism, its actual roots might not come to mind. It’s come to mean a design aesthetic as much as anything. But, the Yves Klein plates of color, or Japanese architectural lines often associated with the term should not be the focus or starting point for those seeking to embrace minimalism as a way of life.

Minimalism at home should be a simple equation. Is what you have more than what you need? If so, subtract. While this is possibly an oversimplification and there are many ways to go about thinking of minimalism, at its core the concept is about down-sizing, slimming, simplifying and adjusting consumption to be more in line with a green lifestyle.

Minimalism also means spending less money, saving more, and evaluating purchases. This also results in less clutter, which means that aesthetically things in your home will have a better sense of streamlined order. Things will be easier to find. Quality becomes paramount and more important than quantity. The very essence of who you are becomes apparent in what you surround yourself with and what you don’t.

It seems simple. However, don’t think that taking things away makes everything easy. The process of becoming a minimalist, or pairing things down in minimalistic style, can bring some to the verge of an identity crisis. Like all challenging things, there are ways of handling this transition that can be healthier than others. So, in starting to think about minimalism, let us start with basic places where simplicity can be achieved and 3 ideas to simplify your life.

 

The Closet

Closet Organization Project

Source: The Closet @ Lara604′s Flickr Stream

Regarding the closet, there are tell tale signs that things might have gone too far. A bending bar and crammed hangers. Clothing is so stuffed that any idea of folding is out of the notion. Drawers, unable to close, turn into shelves. Yes, that’s too much stuff.

The easiest way to start is to make piles, not just any piles, but ones with real specific tasks to help you figure out what you want, what you need, and what is just dinner for random moths that fly around.

One is a pile of clothing that is faded, torn, or in a state of condition that isn’t worth holding onto. Should you really find something worth keeping that is damaged, make a small area of repairs that you are debating and put it in a maybe pile.

The next pile is of things that you haven’t worn for at least a year. That means that they didn’t make it through the last season to be worn. Or maybe you have something that you just keep avoiding when it comes to putting together an outfit. These pieces, sad and lonely in the closet, should end up in a pile to get rid of.

The final pile if of one that are things you are going to keep. Items should be in good condition and things that you wear enough to keep around. It doesn’t matter how much these items cost, as long as they are actually fitting you well and work to represent the best version of yourself you see possible.

Once you are done, your closet should have a set of classic basics and favorite pieces that really make a statement about what style defines that. In the end, your closet should also be put together in a way that doesn’t feel cramped at all in a visual sense. Open places, in an almost artistically fit way should be present when thinking about minimalism.

Organized Closet

An Ideal Closet @ Rubbermaid Closet’s Flickr Stream

 

The Garage

If there was one space that often feels like a black hole of life, it would be the garage. Everything, from precious photo albums of your grandmother’s wedding to a rusty bike you might fix, ends up being thrown into this room whose only visitors are spiders. But with a minimalistic eye, all of that can change. Your garage can be a well organized space to house what you need, and purge what you do not. So if your garage is looking like a tornado hit, simplifying is vital for you.

Messy Garage

Messy Garage @ GarageTek Flickr

First thing is to get bins for recycling, donation, and garbage. I’d also recommend that you put on a pair of gloves, depending on what you might find if your garage is less than pristine. It should be easy to fill up the garbage bin, since things that are broken and not able to be donated will go there. When it comes to deciding what to keep in the garage, a lot of it is going to be pairing down the personal items.

This can be really hard. Often people don’t like to get rid of things that once held good memories. But part of having a more streamlined, minimalistic life is cleaning out those things we no longer need, without forgetting the great memories. If it is overwhelming, just donate things that are not being used at all. In time, you might have to have another round of going through the memorabilia and figuring out what is really needed, and what is just collecting dust and water stains.

Once you go through the garage, you will be able to see that not only can you actually use your garage in a better way, but you won’t be stressed about having a box of garbage attached to your house. If you do this right, it should have some clean shelving and have things organized with labels. You could even end up starting a new hobby with all the new space that you end up with.

Organized Garage

Organized @ DJ Lein’s Flickr

 

The Bedroom

The bedroom can end up a mash of different things. But for the well organized minimalist, having a bedroom that is just for a few simple things is vital. It shouldn’t be a place where laptops are laying around. Or old bags of food and crumpled napkins. And as for the laundry? It should be tucked away and put up in the closet. And when things get overwhelming, you just need to start with the basics.

Messy Bedroom

Messy Bedroom @ Laura T

Firstly, do away with the clutter. That means you are not going to have every knick knack from your travels around. It is distracting, and ends up being a dust collector. One thing that also isn’t going to be in the bedroom are photographs. As much as you like whomever is in those pictures, it isn’t always good to ‘invite’ others into your sacred space. The bedroom needs to focus on relaxing and other things that just should be about you and another person. Once all of that is cleared out, you have a clean slate.

The next thing to look at is the bed linens. If you have mismatched linens, you need to try and get a set that works. It isn’t a bad idea to try and stick to neutral colors. White is always a classic and clean option. For color, you can spike the set with accent pillows. Keep it simple but try to choose a few colors that are not too cold. Blacks, blues, grays, and other cold colors aren’t good for warming up this place that needs a little passion.

As for the walls, try and paint things to be neutral as well. Should you be a die hard fan of color, you can opt for playing down your window shades and linens that can tone down the room. Artwork can be on the walls, but the images shouldn’t spark any specific memory. This way, your bedroom is a blank canvas that is for relaxing from top to bottom.

Clean Bedroom Design

Clean Bedroom @ Mazzali’s Flickr

All these tips and ideas to simplify your life that apply to these rooms can easily spill over to other areas of your home. Those basic rules of pairing down what is not really needed and getting rid of the clutter is essential. When you begin this process, don’t think you have to do it all in one day. Cleaning things out can be overwhelming, especially when our possessions are involved, but after doing it enough it can be refreshing. Your home will have less, and there is one thing you will gain from it. More time for yourself and loved ones, and that is a tradeoff worth trying for.